25 September 2015


Thoughts on Bucket Lists and Twenty Again

Posted by Kakashi Sensei on September 25, 2015
kakashi: One of the sweeter things in Twenty Again is Cha Hyun-Suk playing a (visible and same-age) Daddy Long-Legs as he makes all of Ha No-Ra's (secret) wishes come true, thinking she only has about 6 months to live. There's a topic of living well and dying well to be discussed here, because it has a huge influence on the characters in the drama (and it is probably the topic with the most depth this drama gets into). Beyond that, Bucket Lists per se are a fascinating thing that I want to think about a bit.
JoAnne: Lists, in general, thrill me - yet I've never created a bucket list. Never even thought about making one, and at the moment, I feel very resistant to the idea. This bears consideration.
In Twenty Again, Cha Hyun-Suk and Ha No-Ra immediately clash as soon as they meet again after twenty years. She is delighted when she recognizes him - he is dumbstruck. And then, bottled-up feelings erupt and he turns into a jerk he actually isn't. No wonder she is very surprised about how much the "Cha" she knew has changed. That he has probably not changed so much is hinted at several times (first time when she sees him smile at his assistant and remarks that "his smile is still the same").
Can we please get MORE dimples in this show?!
And yes, I just wrote all of this because I wanted to post a DIMPLE-picture, you've seen through me! But now, I'm getting serious.
It's possible to be very serious about dimples. I have one. It is not on my face.
Oh man, am I serious about this man's dimples
You are very selective, and have excellent taste.


Because he treats her so badly, No-Ra curses him as jerk and draws angry cartoons. But there is an interesting encounter between them early in the drama that does not happen face-to-face (and therefore, does not lead to any childish fighting): it's when she hears him speak about "well dying" on that radio show, while she volunteers with the elderly. 
This is what he says when discussing his project that is about the death of loved ones and the feeling of loss: "All humans eventually die. The important thing is ... how will you die? I'm living in order to die. Living my life in the image I want because I will die one day. In order to die well, one must live well." And he adds that he has a bucket list he started years ago ... and is still working on it. 
This is a concept with a value that you really can't dispute. Could you have a life that was nothing that you wanted, and die happily? I suppose you could be happy to die, but you wouldn't die happy.
At this point, she thinks she is dying and has 6 months to live. This is why his words have a huge impact on her - in fact, it's what changes everything. It makes her realize that she has not lived at all in the last twenty years. She breaks down crying and then decides to go out and live well for the time that remains to her, just like he said, which includes going to school. It's the beginning of the growth that we have seen in the last few episodes.

Bucket Lists

I think that Ha No-Ra is unable to analyze her situation to the fullest at this point in time though. Yes, what she is feeling is immense regret when faced with her "wasted" life. But instead of digging deep enough to understand exactly what that regret entails, she comes up with a "quick-fix" bucket list that is both endearing and extremely one-dimensional at the same time. It shows just how deadening her life has been up to this point and what kind of emotional cripple she has become.
It's time to cut your hair though, Lee Sang-yoon. Seriously.
When he accidentally sees it, Ha No-Ra's bucket list deeply moves Hyun-Suk not only because, well, it's the wishes of a dying woman that he cares for deeply, but also because those are banal, normal things that everybody should have experienced in life: going to a movie and eat popcorn! eating skewer food! getting flowers! That she hasn't experienced them to date shows how pitiful she is. How darn easy it is to make those wishes come true just reinforces this. It is part of why he hates Kim Woo-Chul so much (and hey, he is right to do so!): if his woman has never done these little things, what does it say about her marriage and her husband's role in it?!
It's hard to imagine the life of a person who hasn't even done these small things, while clearly having the means and time to do them. It's even harder to imagine the mindset of a person who wouldn't have just DONE these things - with friends or their child, if the spouse wasn't willing. She had no friends? It's easier for me to imagine that these were things that hadn't happened in a long time, that she wished to experience again in her lifetime, but not necessarily for the very first time ever. No matter, though - that her dreams were so simple is touching and sad, which is the point here.
Think: Woo-Chul = monster
I suppose that for a long time I assumed that this is what their marriage had become over the course of twenty years; not that this is what it always was. We are slowly seeing that it was always this way... but how? He certainly didn't object to her initially.
Of course, there are a few additional items on her list that are less "materialistic", at least when you look closer: like eating grandma's ddeokbokki again, meeting her high-school friends or dancing on stage once more as well as getting closer with her son. Those things reveal deep hurts and regrets of No-Ra (that I don't think Hyun-Suk recognizes enough, at least he does not let himself see what those items truly mean). They are all tied to regretting what happened to her twenty years ago, which makes them regrets about life-choices.
This gets tricky. It's possible to feel sad about what you give up, without regretting that you did give it up. What would she regret? Impulsively sleeping with Kim WooChul? Sure. Marrying him because she was pregnant? Raising the child with him? Well...I don't know. Would it have been better for her and the child to live in poverty (and shame) as a single parent family? There's no chance she'd have gone to school, let's be realistic. Should she have given Min Soo up for adoption? Perhaps that might have been best for both her and her baby, but a lot of people can't imagine it as an option. Abortion? Was that even available to her at the time? Would she have done that? How would she feel today about either of those choices? All that she can safely regret is that one hormonal night. Well, I guess she can also regret not being more of an advocate for herself for the past twenty years. That is the proper regret, I think. She had choices every step of the way, but for whatever reason, she was so submissive to her husband that she never even saw this as an option.
Ha! Interesting that you bring this up, because nothing like this ever crossed my mind. I don't think she has an inkling of regret with regards to her son. She loves him deeply - she is just sad they are not close. I don't even think she regrets Woo-Chul, all in all. No, from her bucket list, she regrets losing her friends and her grandma ... and not doing things she once cared for in all those years. Especially the latter was totally in her power to change. I think one of her problems is that she never had role models. She grew up with a (widowed?) grandma. She has strange ideas of what husband and wife are to each other (see her little speech to Cha when they eat the street food together: "A housewife shouldn't go out too much"). 
Ah, okay.  
He manages to fulfill those wishes too, but that does not make her hurts go away, of course. They are her demons to battle. His role is done now - he helped her live again but that is all he can do. And this probably brings us to the limits of bucket-lists. In general, they are a list of goals we want to achieve, dreams we want to fulfill and life experiences we desire to experience before we die. They are therefore always tied to the finitude of life, to our own deaths. We need an awareness of this finitude, of our own death, to be able to make those lists in a proper way. And we need an awareness of how we have lived our lives and awareness of what went wrong. Both things are HARD.
Don't make me think about this! I don't wanna!
Bucket lists can be egoistic, materialistic things. Like: "I want to travel to the moon before I die". Or: "I want to kiss Kim Ji-hoon at least once". However, to truly address the issues at hand, bucket-lists should be far more. Here is a quote for you:

"The whole point of creating your list is to maximize every moment of our existence and live our life to the fullest. It’s a reminder of all the things we want to achieve in our time here, so that instead of pandering our time in pointless activities, we are directing it fully toward what matters to us." (taken from Here)

You could of course go for quick fixes and fill your life with all those things that bring you joy now. But I would argue that a bucket list cannot be (solely) about fleeting things that bring you temporary joy.  They're connected to how you live your life. Every day. They are about what kind of person you are and what you give to and take from your environment. A mere list will not do this justice. This is about changing your life, and this work will never be done. 
See? I'm right not to have a list.

Regrets of the Dying

Bronnie Ware, a professional live-in carer for terminally ill patients, wrote a blog post in 2009 about the five most common Regrets of the Dying (this has since become a bestselling book). Reading them makes me cry every time. First, because knowing people leave this world full of regrets makes me incredibly sad. Second, because those regrets are so basic, and yet so fundamental. They are about love and being loved - the deepest yearnings of human beings.

Yes, on a personal note, the knowledge of those 5 Regrets has changed the way I live my life. And I'm pretty sure that writer-nim So Hyun-kyung knows about them as well, because they ALL apply to Ha No-Ra (and to some degree to Cha Hyun-Suk). 
So I need to read this book, I suppose.

No 5) "I wish that I had let myself be happier"

"Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. ... Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."
Once you get to a certain age and heap on responsibility at work and at home, life just get heavier. Whenever you do something, there's consequences, for you and for other who depend on you. Very often, there is a lot of pressure and that can lead to all sorts of unhappy things. We need to make sure to break out of the (necessary!) seriousness from time to time. This is about letting go. Going to the 90s club and dance like fools: this is what this is about.
Yeah, I'm good here. You, too, I think.
I'm very often very silly, yes. And I'm generally very happy

No 4) "I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends"

"Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks. ... Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. ... There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."
Human connections make us humans. There are many types of friends, some are close and some are far and some might just be virtual. But without those human beings that gives us fuzzy warm feels when we think about them, our lives are poorer. In Twenty Again, friendship is a big topic and I think it's well shown that friends don't mean beautiful sunshine all the time. They are also there to challenge you, to shake you out of holes you might have manoeuvred yourself into. They're also there to fight with you, because they're not perfect and you're not perfect. But without them, the world is a damn lonely place.
I have lost touch with some people that I wish I had not, but it's not an overwhelming desire, just a 'gee, it would be nice...' and I do have very close friends that I spend time with regularly. You do, too, it seems.
I'm not sure. I really don't have many very close friends. My best friend (and soulmate) died very young and I have never been able to connect to somebody in a similar way. But I'm not lonely. And I think that is important
I've never felt that one needed a LOT of friends to be happy. My circle is very small and I like it that way. I'm never lonely or bored by myself. I never have been. Well, 'never.' I'm sure I have been. It's just not common. And while I might not be lonely, I miss my daughter very much, living thousands of miles away. Okay, maybe that's a thing. I'd like to live in Portland, someday.

No 3) "I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings"

"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result".
Societal pressures, our own families, work environments ... there are so many factors that lead to the norming of behavior. A lot of that is necessary, even good - it's what makes it possible to interact with people on a daily basis. But we should never have to regulate ourselves to a degree that starts getting unhealthy. This is not about fighting with everyone. It is about knowing what is important to us though and about standing up for ourselves and what we think is right. This is a strong theme in Twenty Again, of course, because part of No-Ra's "growth" is about expressing her feelings. Cha is the one she starts shouting at from the get-go - butting heads with him makes her come out of her shell.
Truly not a problem for me. You?
Gawd, no. You should hear me and husband fight with each other

No 2) "I wish I hadn't worked so hard"

"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."
Because Bronnie Ware has spoken to many people of the older generation, it is the norm for the man to be the bread-earner. Nowadays, this dilemma extends to many women. And of course, this can be expanded to mean: "I wish I hadn't had such a one-dimensional life" and then, it applies to everybody. This is about missing opportunities and about sacrificing things that are truly important for other things that are not. In No-Ra's case, being a mother WAS important, but now, her son is all grown up and does not need her in the same way. Regret about the bleakness of her life is what makes her change. 
Proud to say that I deliberately chose a different path because I became a single parent when Tori was about a year old. I was there for every event, I was able to chaperone, teach classes, throw parties, know her friends, spend time with her. The trade-off, of course, is that it was financially difficult for a very long time! Along the way, work became very much the way in which I provide for my life, rather than the way in which I define it. So now even with the time and more money, I feel no pull for great professional development strides - instead, I become more curious about personal pursuits every day.
This is something I keep an eye on carefully. Every day, I try to get the balance between family, work, and personal time right. Not every day is a success
As long as it's not always the same category that loses, I don't think it's an issue.

No 1) "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me"

"This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made."
Knowing and being who we really are is among the hardest things in life. It's so easy to lose yourself in all the demands it throws at us. Having little and manageable bucket-list items of things we want to do in life best helps this No 1 regret. Learn a new language! Learn a new instrument! Travel to a place you have not been to before! Of course, we will never have enough time in a lifetime to do everything we ever want(ed) to do. But hey, we can start with little things. It's surprisingly easy. 
I wonder, sometimes. I don't ever really second guess myself. I make a decision, I act on it, I don't look back and wonder 'what if', I just accept whatever 'now' is, and move forward. Detours have been the best thing to ever happen to me, often. But will I feel this way when I die? I have always assumed I would, and thus I'd have no regrets. What is the point of regret? You cannot go back and change things. It is wasted, pointless, useless, self-indulgent. But now you make me wonder if I will feel that way, after all.
"You do exactly what you want to do", says husband. He admires that in me even if he sometimes does not like it. He, by the way, does exactly what he wants to do, too
newest item on my bucket list: Dimple hunting!
In the process of making her wishes come true, Cha Hyun-Suk says a few more things that are quite relevant. Because the point in all of this is not only to die without regrets. No, the point is to live well - in the here and now. In episode 8, he mentions to the reluctant her that going out on stage and dance was on her bucket list. She says "that's when I thought I was dying", to which he replies: "If you wanted to do it before dying, do you not now that you're living?"

Live well, people. It's worth it.
Can't argue with that.

Anything you want to share from your bucket list if you have one?
I do have one (kind of - in my head). That's why I bought myself drums this years. Cause I always wanted to learn how to play the drums. It's among the best things that happened to me this year!  
I don't really have a list. There are lots of things I'd like to do, and when the opportunity presents itself to me, if I'm still interested, I take it. I don't have any particular 'goals' I'm working toward, in that regard. I live my life every day. Maybe I'm so ingrained in putting things off that I don't even see it happening? Damn you, Kakashi.

And You, Dear Readers?  

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